Southeast Asia ‘exploding’ with diabetesBy Kate Pedroso
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Over 300 million people worldwide are suffering from diabetes, and the Philippines belongs to a region currently “exploding” with the disease, recent world statistics show.
“An area that is also exploding with diabetes is Southeast Asia. And it is something that is very, very concerning,” Jesper Hoiland, senior vice president of Denmark-based diabetes care company and pharmaceutical Novo Nordisk, told journalists from 16 countries during a series of diabetes-related talks held recently in Copenhagen.
Of the estimated 366 million diabetics as of 2011, around 90 million are in China; 50 million, Europe; 30 million, Northern America; 11 million, Japan. The preceding statistics from the International Diabetes Foundation’s Diabetes Atlas were presented by Novo Nordisk.
The remaining diabetics (185 million) are located in countries belonging to what is called the “International Operations” (IO) area. The Philippines, Algeria, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela are among the 25 countries comprising the IO area.
The worldwide figure is expected to hit 552 million in 2030 and more than half of this figure (312 million) will be from the same IO area, Hoiland noted.
“In 2000, we estimated that 150 million people worldwide had diabetes. That number has more than doubled today. And if we look forward: One in every 10 adults is going to be diabetic,” he added.
Figures from the Department of Health show that diabetes is among the top 10 causes of mortality among Filipinos, with more than 20,000 deaths from the disease in 2006, the latest figure available.
According to 2004 estimates by the American Diabetes Association, the Philippines will have some 7.8 million diabetics by 2030.
Lise Kingo, Novo Nordisk executive vice president for corporate relations, pointed to people’s current lifestyles as the cause of the ongoing “diabetes challenge” all over the world. Kingo said: “Many of us are leading unsustainable lives. We are sitting down too much, getting too little exercise, maybe eating too much fast food. At the very least, we have an obesity pandemia in our hands.” Kingo said the risk factors of developing type 2 diabetes include obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
“Various statistics have shown us that close to 95 percent of people who are diagnosed with diabetes also have overweight or obesity issues,” she added.
Global healthcare costs
Kingo also noted that global diabetes healthcare costs amounted to $465 billion in 2011 alone. In 2010, global diabetes healthcare costs accounted for nearly 12 percent of total worldwide healthcare costs. All over the world, around 4.6 million people die due to diabetes every year.
“Today, if you look across the world, 60 percent of the causes that people die from are chronic diseases that include diabetes. In our mind, this is a global problem that needs attention and proactive engagement,” Kingo stressed.
Hoiland also noted that the migration of persons from rural to urban areas and the change in lifestyle that usually follows were also among the possible causes. “Every day, 200,000 people migrate to a city, and with that things change very dramatically in terms of lifestyle,” he said. “We’re sitting much more down, and we’re much less active. And as a consequence of that, we’re developing diabetes much earlier.”
And the growing population of diabetics is not the only problem, Kingo said. “We call it the rule of halves. Of the people with diabetes, only half are diagnosed. The other half don’t even know they suffered from diabetes,” she added.
Of those who are diagnosed, only half have access to “reasonable care” and of those with access, only half are able to achieve their treatment targets. Of this figure, only half achieve their “desired outcome.”
“It’s not just that we have a pandemia—it’s also that at a global level, only 6 percent of people with diabetes have optimal care of their disease. That is way too low,” Kingo said.
Aside from diabetes itself, patients are also faced with its complications. “Having to treat complications of diabetes is also expensive. Some major complications are eye problems, kidney problems and problems with sensing in your hands and feet that often result in amputations,” Kingo added. “Today, more than 50 percent of diabetes-related spending goes to treating complications. And less than 10 percent goes to medication of diabetes itself. A lot of things need to change.”
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes, where there is excess levels of sugar in the blood due to the pancreas’ inability to produce enough insulin to keep it under control, increases as people get older, and can usually be curbed by adopting a balanced diet and proper amount of exercise.
Type 2 diabetes is different from type 1 diabetes, which is usually found in younger people. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin at all. Only about 5 to 15 percent of diabetics are type 1, but their population is growing by 3 percent every year.
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